NFL rarity! Last year’s AFC, NFC Championship Game losers return
Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a sports statistics blog published with a focus on stats that go beyond the numbers.
For the first time since the mid-1980s, we have two teams that lost in their respective conference championship game in a year and then both return to those same title games the following year.
Last season the San Francisco 49ers were defeated by the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game. They return to the title game this year to face the Atlanta Falcons. Also last year, the Baltimore Ravens lost to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. The Ravens get another shot at the Pats in this year’s AFC title game.
The 49ers and Ravens are the fifth pair of teams in the history of the NFL playoffs (since 1966, the Super Bowl era) to return to the conference championship games after losing in them the previous years. The other four times it happened: Cleveland and Oakland (both lost in conference title games in 1968 and then played in those title games the following year); L.A. Rams and Oakland (1974); L.A. Rams and Oakland (1975); Washington and Cleveland (1986).
Here’s a few more stats from the teams that lost conference championship games since 1966 (46 seasons, 92 teams):
* The Chicago Bears and New York Jets were the conference championship game losers after the 2010 season. Neither team made the playoffs in 2011. That was the fifth time in history that both conference championship game losers failed to make the playoffs the following year. The other years that happened: 1985, 1989, 1991 and 2005.
* Sixty of the 92 conference championship game losers made the playoffs the following year, 32 did not. Of the 32 teams, the New York Jets have missed the playoffs three times after losing the conference championship game the prior year. Nine teams have done this twice: Cleveland, L.A. Rams, Chicago, Carolina, Minnesota, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Miami and Denver.
* Nineteen teams have lost the conference championship game in consecutive seasons. The Jets did it in 2009 and 2010. The last NFC team to lose consecutive NFC title games? The Philadelphia Eagles. They lost NFC title games in 2001, 2002 and 2003. The other teams to lose three straight conference title games are the Los Angeles Rams (1974, 1975, 1976), Dallas (1980, 1981, 1982), Oakland (1968, 1969, 1970) and Oakland (1973, 1974, 1975).
* Eight teams lost a conference title game in a season and then won the Super Bowl the following year: San Francisco (1983), Chicago (1984), Washington (1986), San Francisco (1993), Dallas (1994), Green Bay (1995), Oakland (1975) and Pittsburgh (2004). Four teams lost a conference title game and then lost in the Super Bowl the following season: L.A. Rams (1978), Philadelphia (2003), Pittsburgh (1994) and New England (2006).
* Only once in NFL history did both the teams that lost the conference title game in a season then face off against each other in the Super Bowl the following year: That happened in 1994 when Dallas and Pittsburgh lost conference title games and then played each other in the Super Bowl the following season.
* Six of the last eight teams that lost in the NFC Conference Championship Game failed to make the playoffs the next season.
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